"Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" by Jonathan Edwards

One of the angriest and most evocative sermons ever delivered, this speech, which could be subtitled 'Hell and How to Avoid it,' will stay with you for a long time.
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definitions & notes only words
  1. notwithstanding
    despite anything to the contrary
    In this verse is threatened the vengeance of God on the wicked unbelieving Israelites, that were God’s visible people, and lived under means of grace; and that notwithstanding all God’s wonderful works that he had wrought towards that people, yet remained, as is expressed verse 28, void of counsel, having no understanding in them; and that, under all the cultivations of heaven, brought forth bitter and poisonous fruit; as in the two verses next preceding the text.
  2. foresee
    realize beforehand
    It implies that they were always exposed to sudden, unexpected destruction; as he that walks in slippery places is every moment liable to fall, he can’t foresee one moment whether he shall stand or fall the next; and when he does fall, he falls at once, without warning, which is also expressed in that Psalm lxxiii.
  3. sovereign
    greatest in status or authority or power
    By the mere pleasure of God, I mean his sovereign pleasure, his arbitrary will, restrained by no obligation, hindered by no manner of difficulty, any more than if nothing else but God’s mere will had in the least degree or in any respect whatsoever any hand in the preservation of wicked men one moment.
  4. arbitrary
    based on or subject to individual discretion or preference
    By the mere pleasure of God, I mean his sovereign pleasure, his arbitrary will, restrained by no obligation, hindered by no manner of difficulty, any more than if nothing else but God’s mere will had in the least degree or in any respect whatsoever any hand in the preservation of wicked men one moment.
  5. obligation
    the social force that binds you to a course of action
    By the mere pleasure of God, I mean his sovereign pleasure, his arbitrary will, restrained by no obligation, hindered by no manner of difficulty, any more than if nothing else but God’s mere will had in the least degree or in any respect whatsoever any hand in the preservation of wicked men one moment.
  6. chaff
    material consisting of seed coverings and pieces of stem
    Though hand join in hand, and vast multitudes of God’s enemies combine and associate themselves, they are easily broken in pieces: they are as great heaps of light chaff before the whirlwind; or large quantities of dry stubble before devouring flames.
  7. rebuke
    an act or expression of criticism and censure
    What are we, that we should think to stand before him, at whose rebuke the earth trembles, and before whom the rocks are thrown down!
  8. contrary
    in an opposing direction
    Yea, on the contrary, justice calls aloud for an infinite punishment of their sins.
  9. brandish
    exhibit aggressively
    The sword of divine justice is every moment brandished over their heads, and ’tis nothing but the hand of arbitrary mercy, and God’s mere will, that holds it back.
  10. condemnation
    an appeal to some supernatural power to inflict evil
    They are already under a sentence of condemnation to hell.
  11. thither
    to or toward that place; away from the speaker
    They don’t only justly deserve to be cast down thither, but the sentence of the law of God, that eternal and immutable rule of righteousness that God has fixed between him and mankind, is gone out against them, and stands against them; so that they are bound over already to hell: John iii.
  12. immutable
    not subject or susceptible to change or variation
    They don’t only justly deserve to be cast down thither, but the sentence of the law of God, that eternal and immutable rule of righteousness that God has fixed between him and mankind, is gone out against them, and stands against them; so that they are bound over already to hell: John iii.
  13. wrath
    intense anger
    They are now the objects of that very same anger and wrath of God, that is expressed in the torments of hell: and the reason why they don’t go down to hell at each moment is not because God, in whose power they are, is not then very angry with them; as angry as he is with many of those miserable creatures that he is now tormenting in hell, and do there feel and bear the fierceness of his wrath.
  14. congregation
    a group of people who habitually attend a given church
    Yea, God is a great deal more angry with great numbers that are now on earth, yea, doubtless, with many that are now in this congregation, that, it may be, are at ease and quiet, than he is with many of those that are now in the flames of hell.
  15. whet
    sharpen by rubbing
    The glittering sword is whet, and held over them, and the pit hath opened her mouth under them.
  16. dominion
    dominance or power through legal authority
    They belong to him; he has their souls in his possession, and under his dominion.
  17. kindle
    cause to start burning
    There are in the souls of wicked men those hellish principles reigning, that would presently kindle and flame out into hell-fire, if it were not for God’s restraints.
  18. carnal
    marked by the appetites and passions of the body
    There is laid in the very nature of carnal men a foundation for the torments of hell: there are those corrupt principles, in reigning power in them, and in full possession of them, that are seeds of hell-fire.
  19. enmity
    a state of deep-seated ill-will
    These principles are active and powerful, exceeding violent in their nature, and if it were not for the restraining hand of God upon them, they would soon break out, they would flame out after the same manner as the same corruptions, the same enmity does in the heart of damned souls, and would beget the same torments in ’em as they do in them.
  20. beget
    have children
    These principles are active and powerful, exceeding violent in their nature, and if it were not for the restraining hand of God upon them, they would soon break out, they would flame out after the same manner as the same corruptions, the same enmity does in the heart of damned souls, and would beget the same torments in ’em as they do in them.
    In this case,it would not be creating more children, but creating more torments.
  21. manifold
    many and varied; having many features or forms
    The manifold and continual experience of the world in all ages shows that this is no evidence that a man is not on the very brink of eternity, and that the next step won’t be into another world.
  22. brink
    the limit beyond which something happens or changes
    The manifold and continual experience of the world in all ages shows that this is no evidence that a man is not on the very brink of eternity, and that the next step won’t be into another world.
  23. innumerable
    too many to be counted
    The unseen, unthought of ways and means of persons’ going suddenly out of the world are innumerable and inconceivable.
  24. prudence
    discretion in practical affairs
    Natural men’s prudence and care to preserve their own lives, or the care of others to preserve them, don’t secure ’em a moment.
  25. contrivance
    the act of devising something
    All wicked men’s pains and contrivance they use to escape hell, while they continue to reject Christ, and so remain wicked men, don’t secure ’em from hell one moment.
  26. heretofore
    up to this point or up to the present time
    They hear indeed that there are but few saved, and that the bigger part of men that have died heretofore are gone to hell; but each one imagines that he lays out matters better for his own escape than others have done: he don’t intend to come to that place of torment; he says within himself, that he intends to take care that shall be effectual, and to order matters so for himself as not to fail.
  27. appease
    make peace with
    So that thus it is, that natural men are held in the hand of God over the pit of hell; they have deserved the fiery pit, and are already sentenced to it; and God is dreadfully provoked, his anger is as great towards them as to those that are actually suffering the executions of the fierceness of his wrath in hell, and they have done nothing in the least to appease or abate that anger, neither is God in the least bound by any promise to hold ’em up one moment; the devil is waiting for them, hell
  28. abate
    make less active or intense
    So that thus it is, that natural men are held in the hand of God over the pit of hell; they have deserved the fiery pit, and are already sentenced to it; and God is dreadfully provoked, his anger is as great towards them as to those that are actually suffering the executions of the fierceness of his wrath in hell, and they have done nothing in the least to appease or abate that anger, neither is God in the least bound by any promise to hold ’em up one moment; the devil is waiting for them, hell
  29. forbearance
    good-natured tolerance of delay or incompetence
    In short they have no refuge, nothing to take hold of; all that preserves them every moment is the mere arbitrary will, and uncovenanted, unobliged forbearance of an incensed God.
  30. avail
    be of use to, be useful to
    But indeed these things are nothing; if God should withdraw his hand, they would avail no more to keep you from falling than the thin air to hold up a person that is suspended in it.
  31. omnipotent
    having unlimited power
    If God should only withdraw his hand from the floodgate, it would immediately fly open, and the fiery floods of the fierceness and wrath of God would rush forth with inconceivable fury, and would come upon you with omnipotent power; and if your strength were ten thousand times greater than it is, yea, ten thousand times greater than the strength of the stoutest, sturdiest devil in hell, it would be nothing to withstand or endure it.
  32. abhor
    find repugnant
    The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked; his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times so abominable in his eyes, as the most hateful and venomous serpent is in ours.
  33. venomous
    marked by deep ill will; deliberately harmful
    The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked; his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times so abominable in his eyes, as the most hateful and venomous serpent is in ours.
  34. ascribe
    attribute or credit to
    ’Tis ascribed to nothing else, that you did not go to hell the last night; that you was suffered to awake again in this world after you closed your eyes to sleep; and there is no other reason to be given why you have not dropped into hell since you arose in the morning, but that God’s hand has held you up.
  35. asunder
    into parts or pieces
    You hang by a slender thread, with the flames of divine wrath flashing about it, and ready every moment to singe it and burn it asunder; and you have no interest in any Mediator, and nothing to lay hold of to save yourself, nothing to keep off the flames of wrath, nothing of your own, nothing that you ever have done, nothing that you can do, to induce God to spare you one moment.
  36. potent
    having great influence
    If it were only the wrath of man, though it were of the most potent prince, it would be comparatively little to be regarded.
  37. potentate
    a powerful ruler, especially one who is unconstrained by law
    But the greatest earthly potentates, in their greatest majesty and strength, and when clothed in their greatest terrors, are but feeble, despicable worms of the dust, in comparison of the great and almighty Creator and King of heaven and earth: it is but little that they can do when most enraged, and when they have exerted[Pg 90] the utmost of their fury.
  38. render
    bestow
    “For, behold, the Lord will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire.”
  39. ineffable
    too sacred to be uttered
    When God beholds the ineffable extremity of your case, and sees your torment so vastly disproportioned to your strength, and sees how your poor soul is crushed, and sinks down, as it were, into an infinite gloom; he will have no compassion upon you, he will not forbear the executions of his wrath, or in the least lighten his hand; there shall be no moderation or mercy, nor will God then at all stay his rough wind; he will have no regard to your welfare, nor be at all careful lest you should suff
  40. lamentable
    bad; unfortunate
    Now God stands ready to pity you; this is a day of mercy; you may cry now with some encouragement of obtaining mercy: but when once the day of mercy is past, your most lamentable and dolorous cries and shrieks will be in vain; you will be wholly lost and thrown away of God, as to any regard to your welfare; God will have no other use to put you to, but only to suffer misery; you shall be continued in being to no other end; for you will be a vessel of wrath fitted to destruction; and there will b
  41. dolorous
    showing sorrow
    Now God stands ready to pity you; this is a day of mercy; you may cry now with some encouragement of obtaining mercy: but when once the day of mercy is past, your most lamentable and dolorous cries and shrieks will be in vain; you will be wholly lost and thrown away of God, as to any regard to your welfare; God will have no other use to put you to, but only to suffer misery; you shall be continued in being to no other end; for you will be a vessel of wrath fitted to destruction; and there will b
  42. raiment
    especially fine or decorative clothing
    “I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment.”
  43. doleful
    filled with or evoking sadness
    If you cry to God to pity you, he will be so far from pitying you in your doleful case, or showing you the least regard or favor, that instead of that he’ll only tread you under foot: and though he will know that you can’t bear the weight of omnipotence treading upon you, yet he won’t regard that, but he will crush you under his feet without mercy; he’ll crush out your blood, and make it fly, and it shall be sprinkled on his garments, so as to stain all his raiment.
  44. mire
    deep soft mud in water or slush
    He will not only hate you, but he will have you in the utmost contempt; no place shall be thought fit for you but under his feet, to be trodden down as the mire of the streets.
  45. carcass
    the dead body of an animal
    And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.”
  46. vexation
    anger produced by some annoying irritation
    To see so many rejoicing and singing for joy of heart, while you have cause to mourn for sorrow of heart and howl for vexation of spirit!
  47. commonwealth
    a politically organized body of people under a government
    Are there not many here that have lived long in the world that are not to this day born again, and so are aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and have done nothing ever since they have lived but treasure up wrath against the day of wrath?
  48. renounce
    cast off
    And you that are young men and young women, will you neglect this precious season that you now enjoy, when so many others of your age are renouncing all youthful vanities and flocking to Christ?
  49. hearken
    listen; used mostly in the imperative
    And let every one that is yet out of Christ and hanging over the pit of hell, whether they be old men and women or middle-aged or young people or little children, now hearken to the loud calls of God’s word and providence.
  50. apostle
    an ardent early supporter of a cause or reform
    God seems now to be hastily gathering in his elect in all parts of the land; and probably the bigger part of adult persons that ever shall be saved will be brought in now in a little time, and that it will be as it was on that great outpouring of the Spirit upon the Jews in the Apostles’ days, the election will obtain and the rest will be blinded.
Created on March 4, 2013 (updated August 4, 2014)

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